Germans and Americans Talk: Part 1, Chapter 1 German Attitudes.
This is a collection of interviews (translated into English) from the German perspective on nudism.
« Interpretive Essay on Public Nudity
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Gardi Hoffmann’s interview was interesting. I don’t agree that Americans as a collective whole are “uptight” though. Our country is just so much larger, and therefore we have a greater diversity–meaning that generalizing Americans and claiming that “everyone is fighting pornography” is not accurate. I think that definitely has to be taken into consideration, but that that concept has not transferred over to the view that Germans view us.
A womans body is veiwed differently in the United States than other countries. Yes the fack that we dont walk around toppless would in fact grab the attention of not only men but of women, because its something we generally hold sacraed and only share with our parteners. Rather right or wrong our reactions have a lot to do with our culture and beliefs.
It really seems like it’s all in the upbringing. Gardi Hoffman said that even as a child she never thought of nudity as shocking or immoral. Ursula Smith, even though she says that public nudity in switzerland is about the same as in America, says that her children have seen her naked at home. And like Gardi said, she’s tolerant. If someone’s going to do it she’ll accept it but that doesn’t mean she has to do it. I think that’s the main difference between our culture and theirs. We’re not as tolerant as others may be.
The difference has more to do with culture than morality. I think that Europeans in general see the human body in a more artistic sense where as Americans see the human body in a more sexual way. This would explain why public nudity is more taboo in America, because of what people assume it imply’s.
or it could just be that Germans are more used too it, that would defiantly effect the attitude.
Call it a cultural habit.
I found Ursula Smith’s interview the most interesting from this set. Her comments about nudity being acceptable among family seems to be an amalgam or middle ground between the open acceptance of nudity found in the interviews with Germans and the rejection of it in America. I also found it striking that while her parents were against it she herself was ok with it as long as it was just among family. Honestly I think this is a bit strange and would be as embarrassing if not more so than public nudity. Could she have reached this acceptance of nudity by a result of changing thought in Swtizerland, a small way of rebelling against her parents ideals, or were her parents simply in the minority of being against nudity?
While all these interviews are very insightful and full of good points, I think the series of interviews leave a major element absent. Normally when groups of people are interviewed, the person or people arranging the interviews usually try to cover a majority of categories. With these series of interviews, I think the overall message would have been more accurate if more men had been asked for their opinions on nudity. Since men and women can polarize in views, it would have been more interesting if more variety had been covered.
I think Sylvia Schlosser made a good point that how you react to it depends on how you were raised. We become used to certain practices as we grow up, so we can’t help but feel awkward and negative against something that we’ve never been used to seeing, such as public nudity for Americans. Your background can be very influential in how you act and what you expect of those around you.
Reading through these excerpts, it appears as though the underlying theme is a matter of modesty and being used to seeing something. I recall back in the 20th century, I had a mammoth of computer that excelled in size only. It had about 8 megabytes of memory, a 320 megabyte harddrive, and a 75 megahertz processor and a lil 12 inch monitor (or in other words, it was sllllloooooowwwwwwwwwwwwww and ugly). Well, I remember thinking to myself, “Man…. I can’t wait till I can afford a slightly newer computer! I’ll be so awesome and uber-elite when I get my hands on a 32 megabyte memory, 2000 megabyte harddrive, 366 megahertz computer!”
Well… flash forward to now. I’ve built a pretty dandy computer that has about 6,000 megabytes of memory, over 3,000,000 (yes, that’s million) megabytes of harddrive space, and has the equivalency of sixty six thousand megahertz of processing, and I have a 26 inch monitor… with another 19 inch monitor on the side for simultaneous usage… So what is my point, you might be asking? Well… first of all… recall how excited I was feeling back then when I wanted to get a computer that was about 3 times stronger. As you can see, in some aspects, my current computer is thousands of times better. Was I excited when I made it? You can bet your marbles that I was. However… as time went by, I got bored of it. The initial excitement wore off only a few months in. I’m already wondering what kind of upgrades to get for it, since it’s so stale. So the tie-in point:
Germans have grown up in their own culture, seeing nudity on TV, and in the case of people like Ms. Smith, even from their own family. As such, they eventually get jaded over and barely notice it. This is not to say that I think Germans are devoid of sexual feelings when intimate. This of course is not true. I mean I still am amazed by the graphical processing powers of my computer when I run games at full power and at full audio settings… but in general, I feel “meh” towards it. (Yes, I think I just compared my computer to sex…. haha).
But like the young Mohammed who was insanely excited about building his new computer, I think that Americans visiting portions of Germany that have nudists will have their eyes pop out (as mentioned by Mr. Paul). Of course, I’d wager that after they lived there for a few years that they too will barely notice unless someone extremely attractive happens to strip by them.
Regarding the issue of parents and family, I would have to say that I don’t really think that’s an issue, unless you’re completely dependent of your parents. My parents and I don’t see things eye to eye often, so I generally tend to do things my way. Now in the instance of nudity our values tend to overlap… for the most part. I recall a couple of months ago visiting my cousins and being told on the night of arrival that they were running a daycare of sorts. The next day the babies were brought over, and the topic of diapers came about. Suddenly, my uncle asked me if I knew how you can tell if a baby needs changing to which I replied, “if it stinks, you need to change it.” He then said “no, you have to pull the diaper and actually take a look inside to see if there’s anything there.” To which I said “Oh ok”. He then looked at me expectantly and I replied with “what’s wrong?” My mother, listening in on the conversation told me that I was supposed to check on the diaper. Well… Apparently our views on nudity differed here. I had no intentions on seeing a naked baby that didn’t belong to me and it took a bit of arguing to finally make them leave me alone.
As for the aspect of Americans being uptight, I have to disagree with the speaker. It’s not a matter of being uptight, it’s a matter of having different models of modesty. For example, a savage in the jungles of the Amazon would be appalled at the concept of having to cover up more than just his loins in pubic (compared to German standards). Likewise, Americans generally consider Muslims to be uptight and even ‘oppressive’ to women because of the fact that they have stricter modesty laws. All the women I’ve spoken to (which admittedly is not a lot, but still… heh) have worn their headscarves in the same banner than a girl in the US would wear pantyhose or a bra… to cover up things that they don’t want others seeing… Not because their family ‘forced them to under threat of death’. Perception is not always truth, and living here, I don’t really consider Americans uptight. In fact, if anything, I consider American dress to be exceptionally liberal. I have seen girls in miniskirts going into churches, for example. Not uptight by any definition that I know of.
I remember when I was about 7 my mom told me that I was too old to have the shower curtain in her bathroom open when I was taking a bath in the morning because my father would walk through. At that time my dad began to knock before he would come in and I would close the shower curtain to not expose myself. Not that I was developed, I was 7, but because it just seemed the “morally” right thing to do.
I do not think that I would ever go to a nudist beach, as it is not my thing, but I agree with Meier that I am very tolerant. Since I grew up in a family that was open with conversation, I can be around people that choose to do opposite of what I would do and am not offended by it or really think any differently about it.
I find it most interesting that German and Switzerland are so close, but yet they are morally polar opposites about nudity. I would think that some of the culture from each area would blend because they are so close and Swiss people would be used to German nudity and not find it morally wrong and that Germans would understand the mroe conservative nature of the Swiss and not find it as being uptight.
Its good to see individual sides of the stories rather than placing it in a broader context like the previous article did. I agree, I think Gardi thinking Americans are uptight shows that being judgmental and imposing your dogma on someone else’s culture isn’t a strictly American phenomenon. It seemed especially naive when she was saying we don’t pay attention to the big things and we focus on trifles like nudity. Sure, we are more apprehensive about nudity but its simply the way we are. It’s part of our cultural history. It doesn’t mean we trivialize more pressing issues.
I really liked Silvia’s thoughts as it makes. In the end it’s more of a personal issue and not simply jumping on the bandwagon. Not every German is going to be comfortable with nudity and depending on their upbringing they may embrace or shun it. I’m not sure exactly what Silvia was saying in the last paragraph because she’s being a bit ambiguous, but I almost wanna say that she’s talking about sexual assault (?) I really don’t know. She may not be, but if so, I think that adds another dimension to this discussion. I also thought it was a bit funny that Ursula would not be comfortable going into the sauna with her mom but fine with her kids.
I agree with Mark’s post. I think a lot of it is how you were raised. When you are a child, you are not ashamed of your body. But as you grow older you are taught to be modest about being naked. We are also taught that looking at the opposite sex without apparel is wrong. So this is why most Americans have a problem with it or why men might look at women in a sexual way. If we were to change as a culture I think it will be a long way down the road when bathing nude at any body of water is acceptable.
When I was a kid i guess the showering with the family thing was different. My dad and i would go camping and we often more than once had to share the same shower and sometimes mom joined in. This prob continued until i was 7-8. dont know if this is normal or not. My family i guess is different in the fact that my mom only shunned me from seeing sexual things when i was kid. if i saw a naked women no big deal. It’s a human being for gods sake lol. That all changed though when me mum found god : P I think alot of our veiw points have to deal with beliefs and such.
Reading the different interviews I think that when it comes to public nudity in certain appropriate places it is okay and it should be your choice. I think it would be better if things were normal being wearing bathingsuits or being naked. Some people don’t have a problem being naked with their family, but they would with other strangers. I just can’t see in the near future for America to adapt that type of culture. The U.S. being such a new country compared to Germany, I wonder when in the U.S. history did it become so weird, akward, and wrong to be naked with your family or at a public bathing. It would be hard for me to imagine that in the very begining it was always like that. No, I think it was more a some what culture developement of this country. Komisch
I have been in USA only for 2 years and I grew up in Slovakia.I have been in Germany many times and I can tell its pretty much the same.I have been raised in Europe so I dont see anything wrong if somebody is sunbathing topless, I am used to it so I dont even think about there is something wrong with it..I wouldnt do it in USA tho, because I know people are more conservative about things like that. My boyfriend is from Czech but he lives in Switzerland and he told me its not the same as in German, but in Swiss is everything little bit different.They are very strict in many things. I have been there this summer and everything there is just extremely clean and they just live by the rules. But I mean you still can sunbath topless it is just not that common as in German.
One of the interviewers (Hoffman) stated that he thought Americans were too uptight. I wouldn’t say we were too uptight because we have issues with nudity. I think him calling us uptight would the same as if we turned around and said Germans were too immoral. I do think he makes a good point about the fact that they don’t see it as something to be ashamed of.
Americans are uptight about nudity, but in my experience that usually only goes as far as gender. Most women I know do not mind changing clothes in front of another woman, and some of them see nothing wrong with changing clothes in front of a man whom they are friends with. It’s simply the fact that we do not condone PUBLIC nudity. Honestly, that is completely fine with me. I don’t really want to see a bunch of naked people in the swimming pool. Then again, if I had grown up in that manner I would probably feel very differently.
I respect the European men who can goto a beach and not stare at women that are topless whereas in America men would probably look twice. However, I am from Austin and at Barton Springs some women tend to take off their tops and there isn’t a public uproar. Austin even offers Hippy-Hollow where people are allowed to be nude.
Seems to me that what Gardi Hoffman says probably holds a lot of weight or at least reason that a lot of americans are busy bodies with nothing better to do, or as fake Janet Reno said in a South Park episode “Americans get bored very easily and when people get bored they start protesting things.” I say this in reference to people that would not only get offended at German attitudes about nudity but try to do something about it or “legislate morality” such as… not being able to buy beer on sunday, decide children under 17 can’t see R rated films and probably other better examples. When people get “bored”, i.e have decent income, free time, middle class etc. they need something to do and make other people’s problems their own business or something. I don’t know I hate nosy people so I guess that’s why I say that, what business is it of yours whether someone does this or that, provided no one is hurt. If it isn’t hurting you then why do you care, if you don’t like public nudity then you don’t have to stare or keep looking at them
I love Gardi Hoffmann’s view point! There are so many other things that people could be worrying themselves with, things that really effect people like world hunger and homelessness. To me personally, it just seems such a small thing to argue about when there are so many other things in the world to have a stand for.
I think it was interesting that in the last interview she said it was common and normal for people of her generation in Switzerland to be naked in the presence of her family, but her parents’ generation was different. Personally, it would be incredibly awkward to be seen by or see my parents naked. It seems like Germans/Europeans see Americans as a sheltered, conservative, “uptight” society, and I tend to agree with them despite my own attitude toward nudity in my own family. Perhaps it has something to do with Europe having hundreds of years of history of nudity in art, whereas the only example of sexuality or nudity I can think of in American artwork is Georgia O’Keeffe’s possibly vagina-like paintings.
I think the general American attitude is that we don’t understand the purpose in being nude. I don’t feel that we are uptight in fact I think most Americans could probably careless about general nudity if it isn’t flaunted, or at least thats my feelings. Gardi is wrong. Madonna and pornography is sexist, and used for sexual purposes. It’s extremely far from being innocent and is much different than the usual nudity expressed in the other interviews. It is something to worry about as it IS morally unacceptable. One of the biggest reasons the divorce rate has gone up is because of pornography and seeing women as sexual objects. That’s not uptight thats just being conservative. Unfortunately many people seem to not care about staying in a relationship with one person anymore. That’s getting a bit off topic though. I still believe there is a difference in normal nudity and sexual nudity
I believe that the way children view public nudity definitely depends on how their parents have brought them up to interpret it. Children of course, and even adults are embarrassed about it here in the United States because they are taught that those parts of your body she remain private. However, in the German culture, they are raised to believe that those body parts are not any different then the rest so why hide it? I also think that children have such tangible minds at that young age that they can be taught that anything can be wrong or right. On a positive note about introducing your children to nudity is that whenever the are exposed to it in real life scenarios it wouldn’t even phase them… or not take it in a perverted way. On the other hand, I think it is nearly impossible for a man/boy to look at naked women and it not lead to some sexual thoughts. I don’t know, maybe it’s all in what you get use to. In some cultures it is considered slutty and tempting men too much for not covering the entire bodies…. what is so sexual about arms? Or a head?
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